There is a natural tendency to equate the morally well-educated person with the moral person, and consequently to assume that moral education is designed to produce moral people and that its effectiveness should be judged by its success in achieving that aim. But, importantly, this is not quite correct. Education in all its aspects is crucially about developing understanding: whatever else educated people are, they are people with some kind of understanding. In this respect, education differs from training, socialization, and other types of upbringing that do not necessarily imply any understanding of ‘the reason why of things’. Moral education is a matter of developing understanding of the moral domain. Therefore, a morally educated person is not quite the same as a moral person, since it is possible to be moral without having experienced any kind of education and to be morally well educated but to fail to live one’s life in a particularly moral fashion. A morally educated person understands the nature of morality and is committed to the standards and norms implicit in moral inquiry (such as consistency and truth), in the same way that the educated historian and scientist understand their subjects and are committed to the norms of their disciplines. But a morally educated person may nonetheless set the subject aside and declare no further interest in it, just as a good historian may turn his attention away from history; equally, a morally educated person may aspire to be moral but fail for a variety of extraneous reasons such as falling prey to temptation or being overwhelmed by fear or other external pressures. Conversely, a person may act morally without having received any formal moral education. So we cannot assume that the test of successful moral education is simply the extent to which students go on to lead moral lives, and we should not be assessing the quality
of the moral education we provide by estimating the improvement or decline in moral conduct in society.